Theater Review: 'Building the Wall'

Ben Miles
Staring Judy Moreland and Bo Foxworth.

Many of us hope that President Trump doesn't militarize the border or penalize immigrants, whether they're here legally or otherwise. After all, there must be a way to humanize and economize the issue of immigration in a manner that is fair and just. 

But the wonderful thing about the art of theater is that it is able to imagine and create (or re-create) the possibilities and consequences of certain social scenarios. Arthur Miller did it with "The Crucible" and "All My Sons." David Hare did it with "Stuff Happens." And now Robert Schenkkan ("The Kentucky Cycle," "All the Way," and "Hacksaw Ridge") is doing it in a most timely fashion with "Building the Wall," now at Hollywood's Fountain Theatre, indefinitely. 

Set “in the very near future,” Schenkkan’s 80-minute script takes place in federal prison where Rick (a pillar of a performance by the chameleon actor Bo Foxworth), a private, for-profit prison administrator is jailed for criminal abuse and murder of immigrant detainees, which takes place after the Trump administration has fulfilled its campaign pledge to “round up” millions and millions of immigrants. What follows is a case of one-thing-follows-another into a downward spiral of disease outbreaks, mass cremations and, finally, genocidal efforts. All along the way are pragmatic justifications and political expediencies, which enhance and seemingly justify the mechanized routines at play at this 21st century replay of the 19th century’s Andersonville Prison horrors.

As Rick is interviewed by Gloria, a university researcher (Judith Moreland establishes a realistic relationship and repartee with her interviewee), her questions shine an insightful light on Rick – his working-class upbringing, his military service in the post 9/11 era and his lure into the corrections industry. 

Simply and clearly directed by Michael Michetti – with a bleak interrogation room set designed by Se Oh, an appropriately glaring lighting design by Elizabeth Harper, costuming by Naila Aladdin Sanders, and an eerie soundscape and compositions by John Nobori – “Building the Wall” is as playwright Schenkkan insists “a cautionary tale.” It’s a warning to each of us that mindless adherence to mandates and protocols is a formula for hell on Earth and the past is prologue. 

‘Building the Wall” continues indefinitely at The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Avenue, Los Angeles, 90029. Evening performances are Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays at 8 p.m. Matinees are on Sundays at 2 p.m. For reservations, call (323)663-1525. For online ticketing and further information, visit


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